QUADRIVIUM

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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

How I got the wife to watch The Doctor

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I’ve been trying to get Charis to sit down and watch Doctor Who ever since a friend loaned me Series Three.  She’s been less than enthusiastic.  So, building on the idea that marriage is compromise, when she asked me to watch the premiere of The Bachelor last night, I saw an opening.  And I took it.

I promised her I’d watch The Bachelor if she’d give the Doctor a chance. 

She screwed her face up in that look that says she knows she’s been defeated, and she caved a few moments later. 

Last night, I endured all 90 minutes of that shallow and insipid vision of romance, and by the end of the ordeal, Charis was just as disgusted as I was.  So you could say that two good things came out of this—Charis will have to watch Doctor Who (a deal’s a deal, after all), and I’ll never have to watch The Bachelor again. 

Score.  

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Written by taj

March 18, 2008 at 8:50 am

It appears we’re not so turned on by sex.

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Perusing the Point the other day, I noticed this little post about a 30-day challenge the pastor of Relevant Church in Tampa Bay posed to his congregation:

Married couples in the church are encouraged to have sex once a day, for 30 days.  Single men and  women are encouraged to abstain.

Reaction to the post in the comments doesn’t exactly reflect enthusiasm — more the opposite.  “Lack of discernment,” “misguided” and “wrong-headed” summarize the general trend.  One fellow even called sex within marriage a sin, just not as bad as sex without (?!).

You can find my response in comment number 10.

Written by taj

February 23, 2008 at 10:44 am

Posted in Life, Marriage

Six things that annoy me at Christmas time…

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Complaining that “Xmas” somehow means Christmas without Christ.  Maybe an atheist somewhere was feeling clever one day and posited that particular meaning, but X is the first letter of Christ’s name in Greek.  “Xmas” is just shorthand.  Nothing to get in a twist over. 

Bunt cake in holiday movies.  Whenever bunt cake shows up in a holiday movie, it’s only to allow the opportunity for some stoic character to declare “I hate bundt cake,” thus earning everyone’s scorn.  Nobody cares. 

Quibbling over Christmas trees.  Yes, we borrowed the Christmas tree from a pagan festival years and years ago around the time Christians decided to celebrate Christ’s birth in December, even though the event more than likely took place in the spring.  If we were to really get into this issue, we’d find a number of practices in the Christian church out of sync with biblical historicity.  A messianic rabbi told me once that it wasn’t a Jewish custom back in the day to even celebrate a loved one’s birth.  They celebrated a loved one’s death.  Easter, then, would be the holiday everyone lined up for.  Yet, the very name “Easter” has its own unsavory connections.  It just goes on and on and on…

Songs from The Sound of Music passed off as Christmas carols.  When did “My Favorite Things” become a Christmas carol?  There’s one line of loose relevance in the entire song.  One line!  Next thing you know we’re gonna start singing “Edelweiss” for the 4th of July. 

Last minute shopping.  Every year I vow that I’ll have all my shopping done by August, and every year I’m scrounging around for gift ideas right up to the night before Christmas. It’s embarrassing.  Yes, I am a part of that gargantuan crowd feverishly storming Wal-Mart for their last remaining gift items when all you want to do is buy egg nog.  (Quick tip, the line at the garden center is usually shortest.)

The reminder that I don’t have money.  There are always gifts I would love to get someone that have to remain on the shelf because I simply can’t afford them.  Thus, the gift card becomes a great tool.  And I hate it.  It lacks personality.  In some respects it’s useful; it says, hey, I want you to get something that you enjoy.  On the other hand, it misses the personal statement—the time and thought invested to find a gift that will make a real memory. 

Written by taj

December 21, 2007 at 10:05 am

Working with Women

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Update: What I wrote below was passed around to a few people at work.  A lady in another department responded:

“That’s not even the half of say a pair of Donatella Versace jeans! Just wait until his son wants only Abercrombie denim.”

Thankfully that day is at least ten years away.  But who knows; I heard somewhere about an elementary school where the nine-year-olds carry cell phones.  

***

I am one of three people who make up my department at work.  The other two are women.  Over the years, I have served time in similar situations, most notably the three years I spent working as a telemarketer.  And I have concluded that the level of conversation between women really does belong on another planet.   Their world is far removed from mine, at least.  For instance, I refuse to pay $150 for a pair of jeans.  I was shocked to learn that denim even sold for such a price, but who am I kidding, right?  I mean, when Starbucks can raise the price of its coffee and blame the hike on the cost of milk (give me a break) I suppose it isn’t that much of a stretch to believe people will hand over $150 for A PAIR OF JEANS. 

Written by taj

August 2, 2007 at 11:08 am

Posted in Life, Pop Culture

From Thought to Story

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My wife and I have spent the last few days at her classroom.  She works and I work, and I like to have some noise in the background, so I spent some time watching, among other things, Pearl Harbor. I had forgotten just how thoroughly patriotic the movie is.  There’s a particular line I enjoy: “Victory belongs to those who believe in it the most, and believe in it the longest.”  It got me thinking…

The film intercuts old newsreels within the film in order to portray the greater, global conflict of World War II.  Old newsreels fascinate me.  I enjoyed studying WW II in high school because my teachers would show us some of those old newsreels, most of which spotlighted the efforts along the home front to support the war effort, and I’ve seen others that spotlighted the efforts “over there.”  In those years of the war, Hollywood put out movie upon movie exemplifying their heroism.  Sure, they might not be the best examples of quality cinema, but they helped maintain morale.  We knew then how quickly we could lose the freedom of this great country should we wind up on the losing end of the war.  

Naturally, I started thinking about how the War on Terror never receives that kind of coverage.  At least not on the evening news.  Most news reports simply recount the recent deaths, and touch on the argumentative nonsense coming out of Washington.  Hollywood has not produced a single film in the last five years portraying the sacrifices of our service men and women in their efforts to defend the victims of this conflict.  The narrowness of thought this suggests of the creative and influential minds in the news and entertainment industries really started eating away at me.  I thought back to that morning of 9/11, and a story began to germinate…a kind of parable, maybe…one that would take me back to the schoolyard of my youth…to the tyranny of those we call bullies…the teachers’ noble efforts to protect their students…their painful inability to do so…

I remember movies like The Principle, Lean on Me, or even more recently, Freedom Writers.  Stories where teachers overcome immense obstacles to help their students learn and love each other.  I find them inspiring and frustratingly utopian at the same time.  Most teachers are not as brave as those portrayed in these films.  Most have no idea of the violence that happens right under their noses.  They are constrained by a flawed paradigm of moral relativism.  Victims of abuse are told simply to tell a teacher, and thereby incur a greater wrath from their tormentors at a later time.  When a victim does fight back, they face the same consequences as their foe.  In their self-defense, they are punished. 

From Pearl Harbor…to the War on Terror…to the school yard.  I will let you draw the parallels for yourself. 

I am at once energized and terrified.  Energized that I have a new story to write; terrified that it will end up lingering on my hard drive, the tattered beginnings of an unarticulated dream.  I have three stories on my hard drive that are, more or less, complete.  They tell a story from beginning to end, they just need to be looked over, edited, tuned, maybe even rewritten (again), and they could be ready for a publisher. 

Every morning, I endure a voice on the inside that lectures me on the imperative need to finish these stories.  If I keep this up, eventually, I will have accumulated a stack of mere words that will have served no greater purpose than to fulfill my own ego.  Because no one else will have read them.  And I will only have myself to blame. 

Written by taj

July 20, 2007 at 10:54 pm

Thoughts on “The Beginning is Near”

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I have a friend who, in a greater display of boldness than I am capable of, tries to share his faith with at least one person on the bus each say.  That’s quite a feat.  When I ride the bus, I keep to myself—I read, I stare out the window, and I will not speak until spoken to. 

My friend told me this week that he had an encounter with one of these people with whom he shared his faith, and that it changed his entire perspective.  The man told him that he could understand what my friend was offering; he could see that Jesus loved him and that he needed that kind of love.  What drove him away was that he did not believe my friend really loved him.  He said that he could not believe it unless he could see how it had changed my friend’s life first. 

Evangelism sits in tension between two ideals: conviction and relationship.   In the videoThe Beginning is Near—we see both ends of the dichotomy placed side by side, and we are given a clear victor. 

The church spends much of its time fostering a sense of imminent doom.  You won’t find many pastors on street corners condemning people as they walk by, but the desperate plea for the reversal of our immoral culture hits many of the same notes.  “Just look at this,” we say, “it’s getting worse all the time.”  We react much like the first fellow does in the video.  And we shake our heads when people return to the bottle. 

In my very limited experience, a desire for real change finds strong rooting in a firm sense of hope.  For instance, I used to struggle with severe depression.  The motivation to seek healing came during a seminar I attended where one of the men stood to give a testimony of how his life had changed in recent years.  He talked about how he always felt oppressed and uncertain; he had alienated his wife and his kids, and lived in a constant state of deep morose.  Then he told us about the healing that had taken place in his life; he had become a good husband, at home with himself, and secure in his sense of worth and calling.  And I found myself wishing I was as lucky as he. 

I am reminded of that scene in The Shawshank Redemption just after Andy Dufresne is released from solitary for playing Mozart over the prison PA system.  What do you need with Mozart in a place like this? one of the inmates asks.  Here is where you need it the most, Andy says.  You need it to remind yourself that there are places in the world that aren’t made of stone. 

Many of our efforts of evangelism have left people trapped inside the stone walls of their inner prison cells with our message that The End is Near.  We have neglected to deliver the message of rescue, and forgotten to allow the space for that hope to prove evident within ourselves. 

Much of this, I suppose, depends on perspective.  Yes, the culture is awash in the exploitation and glamorization of various sordid affairs, and this is not, by any means, a good thing.  Our first instinct is to react rather than relate. 

Yet, within all this mess, if you look close enough, you can find a piece reaching out, aware of some unnamable need.  Tyler Durden even gave it a voice—“We’re the middle children of history, man.  No purpose or place.  We have no Great War.  No Great Depression.  Our Great War’s a spiritual war…our Great Depression is our lives.” 

People want hope.  Hope is something Christ offers in limitless provision, and if we were a true testament to this hope, the world would look much different. 

Written by taj

June 29, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Another One Rides the Bus

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Someone tells me at least three times a week that my life will change when my baby is born.  It’s only Monday and I’ve already heard it once.  But my lovely wife and I are taking whatever proactive measures we can, one of which entails me riding the bus to work.  We only have one car, see, and she’ll need it to cart the little guy around once she returns to school in the fall.

What I know of public transit comes mostly from Hollywood—the crowded hordes of business men standing in the isle, clinging to little ropes hanging from above, and whatnot.  And while I know a Los Angeles city bus would never make a fifty foot jump over a gap in a freeway overpass, it’s still fun to watch on screen. 

I stepped on board, and thankfully, I was not greeted by the stench of the cleaner they must use to scour public school buses.  The seats on public transit, I discovered, may still cause the caboose some discomfort, but at least they’re upholstered. 

The small crowd I encountered this morning seemed well acquainted with each other.  I actually felt a little out of place.  Most of them knew each other by name.  I don’t why that surprised me—you don’t think of finding community on a bus when you’re not usually the one to hitch a ride.  This crowd did quite well together.  I sometimes wish I could find such fluid chemistry in church. 

I know this isn’t a problem with all churches.  Many churches have community nailed down to a science.  They recognize that building relationships and earning the right to be heard does not entail leading a person to the altar as quickly as possible.  I’m happy to finally be a part of a church that is starting to take that particular ride.   And some of us feel out of place, but we’ll get over it.  Those riding the bus can be my teachers for a while, I really don’t mind. 

Written by taj

April 23, 2007 at 4:54 pm